"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
- Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963
"If we become just and moral, I do not know where we will end up."
- Shmuel Dayan, Member of the Knesset, 1950
The rhetoric used in recent speeches
by top Iranian officials has garnered much attention in the mainstream media. In addition to the outrage expressed over the statement that the Israeli governmental system and guiding Zionist ideology is an "insult to humanity
," comments that the "Zionist regime" is a "cancerous tumor
" have also met fierce condemnation.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compiled a list
of recent reported statements made by Iranian officials. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told
the press that the United States government "strongly condemn[s] the latest series of offensive and reprehensible comments by senior Iranian officials that are aimed at Israel," adding, "The entire international community should condemn this hateful and divisive rhetoric."
Rabbi David Wolpe took to the pages of The Los Angeles Times
to specifically condemn
the cancer analogy. Wolpe incidentally did so by presenting a litany of outrageous statements of his own. He writes that the "state of Israel" is 3000 years old, thus absurdly conflating an ancient Biblical minority community
with a modern, settler-colonial nation-state. He insists Israel is not expansionist
, a claim
that doesn't stand up
to even the most cursory awareness
of basic facts
, the historical record
and current aggressive
Wolpe also states that the cancer analogy "leads inevitably, inexorably, to the prospect of genocide," which he obviously follows up by invoking the Holocaust and asserting that "Iran eagerly pursues nuclear weapons," thereby ignoring the consistent conclusions of U.S. intelligence and IAEA inspections. He concludes by suggesting that, were Israel not to maintain such a destructive military capability, segregationist occupation infrastructure, rampant legal discrimination, and a two-tiered justice system
, the result would be the "wholesale slaughter" of Jewish Israelis, presumably by vengeful Arab hordes.
Such a characterization recalls the ludicrous fears
that beset the vast majority of white South Africans
just years before Apartheid ended, many of whom were consumed by "physical dread" at the prospect of equality and their loss of racial dominance and superiority and foresaw a future full of "violence, total collapse, expulsion and flight." Even in 1987, as Apartheid was becoming increasingly untenable, about 75% of white South Africans feared
that their "physical safety...would be threatened" as a result of "black rule." Nearly 73%, including over 85% of Afrikaners, believed "white women would be molested by blacks." Incidentally, as recently pointed out
, in 1987, "Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa" and was one of the last countries to join
the international boycott campaign.
Southern whites in the antebellum United States nurtured the same irrational apprehension, fearful that the violent and successful 1791 slave rebellion
in Haiti would be replicated across the Gulf of Mexico, especially in states like South Carolina where slaves outnumbered
whites two to one. Following emancipation, and in reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, southern states enacted "black codes" restricting the voting, land ownership, and speech of former slaves. Whites feared
that their loss of racial dominance and an enslaved labor force would not only ruin the southern economy, but also that the newly-freed black population would seek revenge on their masters and rape white women; this led to numerous race riots
and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan that same year.
In April 1868, Alabama newspaper editor Ryland Randolph praised
the Klan for opposing what he called the "galling despotism" of the federal government over the southern states, which he "deemed a fungus growth of military tyranny
" with the goal of "degrad[ing] the white man by the establishment of negro supremacy."
Forrest G. Wood writes
in Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction
Although white men certainly feared for their jobs and income, they were more alarmed by the threat to their physical safety that the "savage African" presented...Pointing to the absence of an advanced (by Western standards) African civilization, extremists described the Negroes as primitive, barbaric, and cruel...Freedom, the white supremacist now asserted, would stimulate the black man's worst passions, leading him to crimes of arson, murder, and rape.
Newspapers often deliberately published grossly exaggerated or wholly fictitious stories of criminal acts and violence committed by blacks, stoking even more fear in the racist white population. For these white supremacists, rape was "the most frightful crime which negroes commit against white people" and the accusation of sexual assault (or even consensual interracial relationships) was a surefire way to spark a lynch mob.
Just this past Spring, Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai said
that many Israeli women have been raped by African migrants and refugees
, "but do not complain out of fear of being stigmatized as having contracted AIDS," insisting that "most of the African infiltrators are criminals." At an anti-African rally, Tel Aviv resident Carmela Rosner held a sign that read
: "They rape girls and elderly women, murder, steal, stab, burglarize. We're afraid to leave home."
that Africans, "along with the Palestinians, will bring a quick end to the Zionist dream," since "[m]ost of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn't belong to us, the white man." He told
the press, "The infiltrator threat is just as severe as the Iranian threat," and is eager to deport all African immigrants for, in his words, "the benefit of the Zionist dream."
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned
that the growing population of African immigrants "threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state," as well as "the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity." Palestinians in Israel along with their actual and potential offspring are regularly
referred to as a "demographic threat
" and a "demographic bomb
," a racist
construction that exposes the discriminatory and supremacist
nature of Zionism itself.
In a recent open letter
to African migrant workers in Israel, Rabbi Moshe Shafir explained why segregation is vital to Israeli society. "A society personifying a social time bomb of robbery, violence, sodomy as well as assimilation alongside the destruction of the institute of marriage and the proper family unit – such a society must be separate and distant, and the sooner the better," he wrote. Shafir went on to state that Africans are "ruining our dream," because they have proven that "fulfill[ing] the positive potential of the human race...is not 'your thing.'"
Shafir added, "This is not about racism or any racial doctrine but a question of leadership, and social principles of decent human beings," before concluding with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Due to such incitement
against minority communities, pogroms
, race riots, and violence
against non-Jews have become commonplace
. The racist nature of these demonstrations is indisputable
Yishai, for his part, is taking matters into his own hands when it comes to Africans in Israel. "I plan to lock them up. This I can do without anyone's authorization," he said
recently. "I am doing it for the good of the State of Israel." He is also calling for "a budget increase to build more detention facilities," so that "until I can deport them, I'll lock them up to make their lives miserable."
The Israeli Education Ministry is currently attempting
to overturn a district court ruling that "migrant children...be fully integrated in the municipal school system and not be taught in a separate school." The state appeal in favor of segregation claims that the education of Israeli children will suffer if done alongside the children of African immigrants. Meanwhile, extremist Jewish groups continue
to try to "rescue" Jewish Israeli girls who date
Palestinian men and threaten
Palestinians with violence if they flirt
In 2008, a Jewish Israeli woman filed a police report after discovering that a man she had just had consensual sex with was Palestinian and not Jewish, as she had assumed
. After spending two years under house arrest, an Israeli court convicted
the man of "rape by deception" and sentenced
him to 18 months in prison. A former senior Justice Ministry official was quoted as saying, "In the context of Israeli society, you can see that some women would feel very strongly that they had been violated by someone who says he is Jewish but is not."
This is to be expected, as The Palestine Center
's Yousef Munayyer explains
: "An ideology that seeks to build a society around a certain type of people defined by ethnicity or religion is inevitably going to feature racism, supremacy and oppression—especially when the vast majority of native inhabitants where such an ideology is implemented are unwelcomed."
Unsurprisingly, commentators who routinely denounce cancer analogies when they come from Iranian officials blatantly avoid addressing the use of the identical rhetoric by Israelis themselves
when referring to the growing presence
of non-Jewish communities within areas controlled by Israel. When, in 2002
, IDF chief Moshe Ya'alon referred to
Palestinian babies as "cancerous manifestations
" and, this year, when Likud Knesset member Miri Regev called
African migrants and refugees
"a cancer in our body
," (a description 52% of Jewish Israelis agreed
with), they were silent.
This language has long been used by Israeli officials. For instance, in August 1979, Israeli Major General Avigdor Ben-Gal "was quoted as telling a group of Knesset members Thursday that the Arabs of the Galilee were 'a cancer in the body of the nation' and were waiting for the moment 'when they can screw us,'" according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report
While calling the government and founding ideology of a state a "cancerous tumor" is certainly not a nice thing to say and supporters of that state's policies have every reason to take offense to such a description, it is quite obviously a political statement. Iranian rhetoric attacks a political entity
, namely the "Zionist regime
", which systematically discriminates
against and oppresses people based solely on their ancestry and religious affiliation. In contrast, Ya'alon's, Regev's, and Ben-Gal's statements employ the cancer analogy
to defend the concept of ethnic-religious exclusivity and have everything to do with people
, whether Palestinian or African, who somehow - just by being born
- threaten the continued dominance of a deliberately demographically engineered and maintained state.
To be sure, regardless of its intended target, this kind of rhetoric is purposefully harsh and often gratuitous. Yet, like Ahmadinejad's "insult to humanity
" line, the cancer analogy is neither new nor original in Iranian political discourse.
Last year, in a speech lamenting the Nakba and the attendant creation of the State of Israel, Ahmadinejad himself declared
, "Like a cancer cell that spreads through the body
, this [Israeli] regime infects any region. It must be removed from the body." Earlier this year, in an address commemorating Land Day in Palestine and condemning "the criminal occupation of Palestinian territories," he said
that "the Zionist regime is like a malignant cancerous cell
, and even one or two cells are enough to infect the whole body."
A month before that, in February 2012, Khamenei anticipated his most recent remarks, saying
, "The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region
that should be cut off and it definitely will be cut off."
Nevertheless, while Iranian officials have been employing this particular descriptor for decades
, it has long been wielded for the express purpose of condemning a political system or ideology one vehemently opposes.
For instance, in his 1993 manifesto, "A Place Among Nations
," Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself warned of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, writing that the "deep cultural and psychological distortion" of fundamentalist Islam makes Iran a "cancerous tumor that threatens modern civilization
Years later, during his address
to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2011, Netanyahu again warned of
...growing between East and West that threatens the peace of all. It seeks not to liberate, but to enslave, not to build, but to destroy. That malignancy is militant Islam
In September 2008, senior Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad referred
to Hamas as "more powerful than the Palestinian Authority. It's like cancer
In early 2010, Israeli Knesset Minister Talab al-Sana of the Ta'al
Israel's colonial settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories "a malignant tumor
," a comment that drew the ire of another parliamentarian, David Rotem of the right-wing extremist party Yisrael Beiteinu
, who responded: "If the settlers are a malignant tumor in the Palestinian nation's body, I hope the tumor spreads and the nation dies
These are just recent examples. The phraseology has an even longer history.
In the 1820s, former president John Adams wrote
to Thomas Jefferson that "slavery is a cancer to be isolated
." On October 16, 1854, in an stridently abolitionist speech in Peoria, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln likened
the Constitution's vague references to slavery to a "cancer
," hidden away, which an "afflicted man...dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time."
In an anti-slavery lecture
delivered in 1855, Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, "A high state of general health cannot coexist with a mortal disease in any part," explaining, "Slavery is an evil, as cholera or typhus is, that will be purged out by the health of the system."
A New York Times article
from September 8, 1863 quoted then-Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson
as telling a Nashville crowd in late August, "Slavery is a cancer on our society
, and the scalpel of the statesman should be used not simply to pare away the exterior and leave the roots to propagate the disease anew, but to remove it altogether." Johnson endorsed the "total eradication
" of slavery from Tennessee.
In the final chapter of the first volume of Das Kapital
(1867), entitled "The Modern Theory of Colonization
," Karl Marx excoriated
British politician Edward Gibbon Wakefield for his efforts "to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies
The 1968 platform of Bermuda's first political party, the Progressive Labor Party, proclaimed
, "No government can be either responsible or democratic while under the rule of another country, " adding, "Colonialism is a cancer
A February 23, 1962 article
in Time Magazine
profiled U.S. General Paul Donal Harkins, the commander of a newly created U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam, which is described as "the first step in a more broadly based anti-Communist campaign." Harkins is quoted early in the piece as defining his mission as "doing all we can to support the South Vietnamese efforts to eradicate the cancer of Communism
In early June 1983, just a few months after Ronald Reagan delivered his "Evil Empire" speech
in which he declared his belief that "Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written," Illinois Representative Henry Hyde told
the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, because "Communism is a cancer
," Congress should support covert action and assistance to Contras and anti-Sandinista
forces in Latin America in an effort to "fight for freedom."
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Committee on February 27, 1986, Reagan's Secretary of State George P. Shultz declared
that the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua was "a cancer, right here on our land mass
," which "has tried to spread itself around in a fundamentally evil way" and needed
to be "cut out." Advocating for arming the Contras, he insisted, "We're on the right side in this issue. I know who the good guys and the bad guys are."
used "Communism is a cancer inside the nation's body
and we will cut it out" as a political slogan in opposition to Fatah soon after its establishment in the late 1980s.
In the 1990s, right-wing Evangelical Christian political operative Ralph Reed repeatedly referred
to "the scourge of legalized gambling" as "one of the greatest cancers growing on the American body politic
On October 7, 2001, the day American bombs began to fall on Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld declared
"that terrorism is a cancer on the human condition
and we intend to oppose it wherever it is." Later that month, Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Pacific Command, wrote
that Al Qaeda had "spread its cancer to over 60 countries
, encouraging young men to come to Afghanistan for training in terrorist techniques" and had "sent its spawn to Chechnya, Central Asia, Xinyang, and the Kashmir."
Perhaps most applicable, however, are the comments made by anti-Apartheid freedom fighters in South Africa. On February 25, 1990, Nelson Mandela told
a rally in Durban that "apartheid is a deadly cancer in our midst
, setting house against house, and eating away at the precious ties that bound us together." Years later, in Pretoria, Mandela would famously note
that "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."
Long before Mandela's statement, however, the phrase was used by South African Reverend Allan Boesak
who, in 1983, formed the United Democratic Front, a legal umbrella organization for hundreds of anti-Apartheid
groups. In his opening address
to the UDF, Boesak stated
Apartheid is a cancer on the body politic of the world. A scourge on our society and on all human kind. Apartheid exists only because of economic greed and political oppression maintained by both systemic and physical violence and a false sense of racial superiority. So many have been forced into exile. So many have been thrown into jail. Too many of our children have been shot down mercilessly on the streets of our nation.
In the same speech, Boesak called
Apartheid "a thoroughly evil system" that "can never be modernized or modified, it must be totally eradicated
" and, in 1985, denounced
the white South Africans who continued to support Apartheid as the "spiritual children of Adolf Hitler."
In 1988, Jim Murray echoed Boesak in the Los Angeles Times, writing
that "apartheid is a cancer on the world body politic
--to say nothing of its soul. You combat it the best way you can."
Just as many others, including numerous Israelis, have described the state of Israel as practicing Apartheid, Boesak himself has endorsed such a comparison, and has gone even further.
In a November 2011 interview
, Boesak reaffirmed his statement that the oppression of and discrimination against Palestinians by Israel is "in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid," adding, "It is worse, not in the sense that apartheid was not an absolutely terrifying system in South Africa, but in the ways in which the Israelis have taken the apartheid system and perfected it, so to speak; sharpened it."
He cited the physical barriers, travel and employment restrictions, and the "two separate justice systems" for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank as examples of why "in many ways the Israeli system is worse." He offered his wholehearted support for the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions to impel Israel to comply with international law.
When asked whether Palestinians could ever be expected to recognize Israel as a "Jewish State," Boesak replied:
They can't. There is no such thing as a specifically Jewish state. You can't proclaim a Jewish state over the heads and the bodies and the memories of the people who are the ancient people who live there. That is Palestinian land we are talking about. Most of the Jews who are there come from Europe and elsewhere and have no claim on that land and we mustn't allow it to happen to the Palestinians what happened to my ancestors who were the original people in this land (South Africa) but now there are hardly enough of them to be counted in the census. That is Palestinian land and that should be the point of departure in every political discussion.
Similarly, official Iranian state policy maintains
that the international community must "allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself" and that in "the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it...Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians [must] determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect."
Hysteria over Iranian phraseology (rhetoric with a long political history) relies solely on the presumption - repeated ad nauseum
by politicians and the press - that the nation's leadership has threatened to attack Israel militarily and wipe it off the map
. But Iran has never
made such threats
. Quite the contrary.
In February 2006, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told
a press conference, "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned. How is it possible to remove a country from the map?," explaining that, in the often repeated statement by President Ahmadinejad, "He is talking about the regime. We do not legally recognize this regime."
Speaking to Wolf Blitzer in April 2006, Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh directly addressed
claims that Iran seeks the physical destruction of Israel (whatever that means). Blitzer asked, "Should there be a state of Israel?," to which Soltanieh replied, "If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionist mentality, no. But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred, this is a fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is."
In a June 2006 letter to The Washington Post
, a spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations wrote
, "Iran's position is very clear: We have not threatened to use force nor have we used force against any country or government in the past 250 years. We've never done that in the past, and we'll never do it in the future," adding, "We wonder whether Israel or the United States can make the same statement."
The letter also noted that, the same month, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared
that "We have no problem with the world. We are not a threat whatsoever to the world, and the world knows it. We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any state."
In October 2006, President Ahmadinejad stated
, "Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country...We are not a threat to anybody; even our solution to the Zionist regime is a referendum." The following year, Ahmadinejad was asked
by the Associated Press
whether Iran "would ever make a first strike against Israel." He replied, "Iran will not attack any country," and insisted Iran has "always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one" and has no interest in territorial expansion, something Israel could never seriously claim.
In a 2008 CNN
interview with Larry King, Ahmadinejad stated bluntly
that "we don't have a problem with the Jewish people," and added, with specific reference to Israel, "We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt."
The same year, at a news conference during the D8 Summit
in Kuala Lumpur, Ahmadinejad told
reporters that because he believes the Zionist enterprise of ethnic cleansing and colonization is "inherently doomed" to failure, "there is no need for Iranians to take action" to hasten the inevitable political outcome in Palestine. He also assured the press, "You should not be concerned about a new war."
He also made his position clear in a September 2008 NPR
, "Let me create an analogy here — where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear — but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future."
During an October 2011 interview, Ahmadinejad told Al Jazeera
that Iran "will never enter any war against the U.S. or against any other country. This is our policy...We have never attacked anybody. Why should we do that? Why should we start a war?"
This past July, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations said
, "We will react if there is any provocative act from the other side. We will not initiate any provocative steps."
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency have affirmed that "Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack."
The alarmism that inevitably follows boilerplate speeches by Iranian officials serves an agenda of decontextualized demonization that paints the Islamic Republic as a genocidal
, eliminationist aggressor and Israel as a victim, just one spinning centrifuge away from eradication. In fact, it is Israel that consistently threatens Iran
with an illegal military assault
, not the other way around. But it is not a military attack that actually threatens the future of Israel, it is exactly
the kind of struggle undertaken
by those like Allen Boesak, who courageously stood against
an unjust system of ethnocentrism and supremacy and prevailed.
Were Israel to finally respect international law, put an end to decades of racism, occupation and Apartheid, and begin to consider each and every human being as equal and worthy of the same human rights and dignity, freedom of movement and opportunity, it would no longer be subject to the harsh analogies that have for so long been directed at the most oppressive and inhumane ideologies the world has ever known.
October 11, 2012
- Capitol Hill's Roll Call
newspaper has reported
that leading Congressional warmonger Lindsay Graham is among a group of legislators who are "eyeing new resolutions that would back Israel if it attacks and, potentially next year, authorize the use of U.S. military force."
Graham told the paper, "The 30,000-foot view of Iran is very bipartisan: This regime is crazy, they're up to no good, they are a cancer spreading in the Mideast
While the South Carolina Senator is using identical rhetoric as the Iranian leaders who are so roundly condemned for it (while Graham surely will not be), he is also - and quite explicitly - calling for military action, something Iranian leaders (as seen above) don't do. Graham boasted of his efforts "to do what is necessary to support military intervention" in Iran in the future, if the Islamic Republic refuses to kowtow to illegal Western demands. "I think there would be an overwhelming vote to authorize force," he added.
So wait, who's the bellicose eliminationist here?
March 7, 2014
- In Ha'aretz
, Holocaust researcher and Hebrew University professor Daniel Blatman writes
that Israel has turned into "the South Africa of the 21st century" and that "racist cancer
, after 47 years of occupation and domination of another people, has spread deep into Israeli society."
Last month, during a speech
in Tunis, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani called
Israel a "cancer
" in the region.
[To illustrate the ubiquity of such rhetoric, earlier this year, Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries referred
to the gentrification of the city's poorer, struggling neighborhoods as "a malignant tumor."]
August 1, 2014
- In a speech
on July 30 denouncing the ongoing violence carried out by militarized expansionist groups driven by an extremist vision of religious nationalism that terrorize, massacre, displace, and ethnically cleanse indigenous communities and seize territory in the Middle East, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lambasted
both Israel and the organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) as "festering tumor[s]" in the region.
Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani of the Brookings Institution reported
During an Eid al Fetr address to a gathering of senior Iranian officials and foreign diplomats of Islamic countries, President Hassan Rouhani commented on the war in Gaza saying, “Today, this festering Zionist tumor has opened once again and has turned the land of olives into destruction and blood and littered the land with the body parts of Palestinian children.” Rouhani also called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “a second festering tumor that murders people in the name of Islam,” and added, “Analysts say that both of these tumors derived from the same origin.”
Previously, on July 21, 2014, the Twitter account of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted out the following:
Predictably, the Washington Free Beacon
, an often comically absurd and libelous neoconservative online news outlet
the "violent tone" of Rouhani and Khamenei's comments, ignoring completely the long history of such rhetoric, namely its use by both Israeli and American officials.
August 13, 2014
- Renowned Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell, in an extensive interview
discusses the growing trend toward Fascism in Israel and insists:
The settlements are a cancer. If our society is unable to muster sufficient strength, political power and mental fortitude to remove some of the settlements, that will signal that the Israeli story is finished, that the story of Zionism as we understand it, as I understand it, is over.
August 26, 2014
- The "cancer" analogy has come full circle.
regarding the recents actions
of the 'Islamic State' (previously known as ISIS or ISIL), U.S. President Barack Obama said
on August 20, 2014:
From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.
Less than a week later, on August 26, Obama repeated
the phrase in a speech he delivered before the American Legion National Convention:
And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland. And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy and it won't be quick. But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.
In comments late last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also described ISIL in similarly carcinogenic terms
, condemning the group as a "festering tumor
" spreading its violence and control throughout the region, alongside the Zionist government of Israel.
Cancer rhetoric makes for interesting bedfellows.
In an astute commentary published in the New York Times
, LaSalle professor Michael J. Boyle wrote
that "such moralistic language can blind its users to consequences," adding that the "language of good and evil may provide a comforting sense of moral clarity, but it rarely, if ever, produces good policy."
Meanwhile, less astute observers such as Al Gore's former communications director, Lawrence J. Haas, and the always awful Alan Dershowitz have seized on Netanyahu's own appropriation
of Obama's use of the "cancer" analogy to condemn Hamas' resistance against seven weeks of Israeli brutality in Gaza and decades of occupation and oppression.
In US News and World Report
, Haas wrote
that "for Israel, so too is Hamas a 'cancer' that must be removed
. So, too, is there 'no negotiating' with it." While Haas laments the tragic death of a single Israeli child by a rocket fired from Gaza, he never mentions a single one of the at least 2000 Palestinians murdered by Israeli bombs and bullets, more than a quarter of whom were children
In a similarly typical hasbara
screed, Dershowitz declares
, "We cannot compromise — come half way — with terrorists who demand the deaths of all who stand in the way of their demand for a Sunni caliphate, whether these terrorists call themselves ISIS or Hamas. Both are, in the words of President Obama, 'cancers' that must be extracted before they spread. Both are equally malignant
Writing in +972
magazine, Larry Derfner thoroughly demolishes
this propagandistic equation:
Anybody who isn’t a shill for Israel can see through Netanyahu’s new slogan,“Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas.” It’s such a crude attempt to brainwash people, to put the most horrifying image in their minds and associate it with Gaza, thereby cleansing Israel of those images of Gaza’s agony. Like he’s been doing his whole career, Netanyahu is insulting people’s intelligence, treating them like children, selling them the war with a short little singsong slogan they can all remember.
For Netanyahu, ISIS is a red herring, and so is Hamas – Netanyahu is fighting in Gaza to defend the occupation, and he would fight to defend it against any Palestinian challenger. Yes, Hamas is an organization of brutal, ruthless fascists, but so were any number of national liberation movements – that didn't make the foreign occupation of their countries and the wars fought to maintain those occupations any more just. The slogan “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas” is just another cynical ploy by Netanyahu to blind some people to what Israel is doing in Gaza, and to intimidate those who see the horror into keeping quiet about it.
October 3, 2014
- Oklahoma State Representative John Bennett, a former U.S. Marine and current loudmouth bigot, has been recently meeting with constituents to warn them about the specter of evil Muslims taking over the planet.
In multimedia presentations, Bennett has "outlined a history of the Islamic faith and his views that Islam is a sociopolitical movement intent upon destruction of Western civilization and world domination," writes Tulsa World
reporter Bill Sherman:
"Their goal is the destruction of Western civilization from within," he said.
"This is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.
"The media is playing right into their hands," he said.
"We need to share his (Jesus') story, love others and stand for freedom," he said to loud applause.
"I love each and every one of them, but I'm not going to stand back and let them push Islam into our nation."
October 6, 2014
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again employed the cancer analogy to describe an ideology he abhors.
Before a sparse audience at the United Nations on September 29, 2014, Netanyahu described
"militant Islam" as "a cancer" that, if "left unchecked... grows, metastasizing over wider and wider areas. To protect the peace and security of the world, we must remove this cancer before it's too late
As part of his annual autumn U.S. media blitz, Netanyahu use similar rhetoric during an interview
with Face the Nation
's fawning Bob Schieffer
on October 5. Around the world, he said, "there is a malignancy of militant Islam
" that "is growing and spreading. It's sending its tentacles to the West."
December 2, 2014
- On November 30, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported
on an overtly anti-Palestinian act of arson and vandalism targeting the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School, a privately-run Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school, which is also Israel's largest Jewish-Arab institution. A fire was set on the school's playground and a number of racist and hateful phrases were spray-painted on the walls on of the building.
In addition to the Kach Party calling card, "Kahane was right" was written, "There's no coexisting with cancer
January 10, 2015
- News Corps tycoon and all-around cartoonishly awful person Rupert Murdoch thought tweeting this was a good idea:
UPDATE XI: coming soon
July 20, 2015
- Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is again in the running to never be president, lashed out
at current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump on Twitter today:
"Defending conservatism against the cancer of Trump-ism
," trumpeted Perry, before linking over to information about a campaign event in Washington D.C. later this week.
Previously, Perry has described
the allegedly anti-conservative ideology of "Trump-ism" as "a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense," which, to be honest, just sounds like regular old conservatism.